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Forgotten war: Chance meeting that led to niece visiting war grave in Korea
VALERIE Busby was overwhelmed by the gratitude of South Koreans when she finally got to pay her family’s respects at the grave of her uncle who died during the Korean War.
Mrs Busby, from Bicester, journeyed to Asia to visit her uncle Herbert Clifton’s final resting place.
Her visit came after the family, who had previously no idea where the war hero had been buried, were able to track down his burial site, thanks to generous war veterans.
The 68-year-old said: “The Korean people really couldn’t do enough for us.
“People came up in the streets and held our hands and said ‘thank you’.”
Mrs Busby returned last weekend from a week of commemorative services at the invitation of the South Korean government, joining about 100 Commonwealth war veterans and 30 or so of their family members.
Together with her partner Tom Selwood, 78, she attended the special ceremony at the United Nations cemetery in Busan last Friday.
It was the first time anyone from her family had been able to attend the grave, following her uncle’s death in an attack on the Imjin River at the age of 20 in 1951.
Nobody in the family knew where the remains of the Bicester lad were until a chance conversation by Mr Selwood last year put the couple in touch with war veterans.
One of them, Grenville Toomey, 80, of Appleton, whose battalion took over from that of Uncle Herbert, was also on last week’s trip, the third successive year he has revisited South Korea on the government’s annual commemoration week.
Mrs Busby laid two crosses at her uncle’s grave, each inscribed by his surviving sister – her mother, Win May, 90, of Bicester, and Mrs May’s younger sister, Joan Smith, 87.
Although the headstone is small, it has huge emotional importance for the family. “It’s a square about two feet by two feet. It has his name, regiment number, and when he died.”
Mrs Busby visited her infirm mother on Monday to show her photographs. She said of her mother: “She shed a few tears.”
The government also presented Uncle Herbert’s sisters with quilted blankets with the words: “The Republic of Korea will always remember your sacrifice.”
During the week, Mrs Busby visited the demilitarized zone at the border with Communist North Korea.
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